The Use Of Music In Slaughterhouse Five By Kurt Vonnegut

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In the 1960s, music and literature were commonly used to promote anti-war messages. People used novels, pamphlets, and songs, among other things, to get their opinions out into the world. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut is considered one of these anti-war novels, “one of the greatest anti-war novels ever written” (The Folio Society) in fact, though it is not necessarily one of them. It tells the tale of war, without heroes; however, many individuals still consider it an anti-war novel because of this hero-less portrayal. Vonnegut uses music throughout his novel to help Billy Pilgrim deal with his ambivalent emotions regarding the war. In his article “The Sixties and Protest Music”, Kerry Candaele states that “music has always kept company…show more content…
“He dimly sensed that somebody was rescuing him. Billy resented that” (Vonnegut, 44). It could be said that Billy Pilgrim resents being rescued because if he had instead died at this young age, he would never have to feel anything but the water and the beautiful music. He would not have to go back to present day and the unhappiness that is war. There would never be any of the terror and uncertainty that he felt running around with Weary and the Scouts. Similarly, Pilgrim appears to resent being rescued by Weary, as well. He would rather die and avoid the seemingly unavoidable occurrence that is war.
This sink-or-swim relationship Billy Pilgrim has with his father very closely relates to his experience with war. His father throws him in telling him to swim or drown, but when he sinks to the bottom and does not return to the surface, he is still rescued. He resents that. This essentially mirrors what he has seen of war thus far. Live or die, unless you have a “friend” like Weary that will carry on making sure you keep on kicking. Weary “rescues” Pilgrim time and time again, and he resents that
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After he flees the party, finds his son sitting on the toilet with an electric guitar, and finally retires to his bedroom, Pilgrim begins to think about an experience he had some time ago. The Four-eyed Bastards and their music reminded him of the night that Dresden was destroyed. “The guards drew together instinctively, rolled their eyes. They experimented with one expression and then another, said nothing, though their mouths were often open. They looked like a silent film of a barbershop quartet” (Vonnegut, 178). The guards that he is referring to are the ones that held him and several other Americans soldiers hostage in the meat locker in Dresden. Pilgrim witnessed them feeling the loss of their fellow soldiers, families, and friends. They could almost be singing “That Old Gang of Mine”, as they looked at the ruins of the city. Pilgrim was so stricken, because it seemingly never occurred to him that war affects your enemies and your friends. He again felt that same resentment and that same acceptance of the fact that this is what war would always be, and that war would always be.
In this passage, Vonnegut uses music to help Billy Pilgrim come to a realization war touches everyone. Its affects reach far and wide, and they can be devastating. An entire city is wiped off the map, and again,
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